After living in Osaka for a year I felt that owning a car in Japan was just stupid what with the ease of getting around with trains and bicycles. However when I moved back to Japan after graduating from university and getting into JET, that ideology changed once I moved to the green rolling mountain hills of Gunma prefecture.
Enter the inaka
My idea that having a car in Japan is stupid quickly changed after I came to the “inaka” or “countryside” of Japan. Everything was spaced out and it took a 15 minute bike ride up hills to just get to the nearest train station. I found myself riding my bike for a good hour everyday, traveling to go grocery shopping, to buy clothes, go the gym, etc. Local sightseeing around Gunma was also a pain and many sights were simply not accessible by train.
My first car… in Japan
Luckily after only a couple months of living in my town I was able to fall in…love? Or well I found myself a girly and after only a couple months of dating I then found myself being presented with a car from her dad at the low price of just $300!!! It pays to be beautiful 😉
It wasn’t anything special, a 1998 Toyota Calidina with mileage through the roof, but it did the trick and helped me go on some epic snowboard trips. However, after only about a year….
Bump, crash, bang! My car!!!!!!
Unfortunately for me, only a month before I had to renew my insurance, I crashed my car. It was a monstrous pain in the ass. You can read more about it here and how I was able to bounce back.
After I got my car accident all settled out it was time to decide whether or not to buy a new car or pay for the repairs and pony up for the semi-annual Shaken inspection.
A new car was going to cost me about $3000- $5000 if I purchased one from a used car salesman I knew. It included insurance and shakken as well. Not a bad deal, but since I wasn’t sure where I would be working in the up coming months I hesitated to make a decision. After discussing the topic with my friend Albo, he informed me about a Japanese man that rents cars to English teachers in Gunma. So I made a post on a facebook group for English teachers in Gunma about renting a car and I soon received a private message from a teacher who knew Ebachan.
The man they call Ebachan
I contacted Ebachan immediately and he was very fast to respond to my email and answer my questions. He spoke very good English and I never had any issues with communication. After I told him that I was interested in renting from him, he set up a meeting time and I met with him shortly after. For our meeting he bought me donuts and tea and brought them to my house to discuss the contract, insurance, how his rental system worked and so forth. He clearly described what he needed from me (more info below) and how he could help me if I have any problems what so ever.
Japanese passenger vehicles are differentiated by the color of their licence plate: yellow and white. Yellow-plate cars have smaller engines and are generally cheaper to run and maintain than White-plate vehicles. Ebachan rents out both yellow plate and white plate cars. The yellow-plate cars cost ￥15,000 or $150 a month. A white plate car costs ￥3000 more at ￥18,000 a month. Ebachan usually has both types of cars for rent. Unfortunately for me at the time I was looking to rent he didn’t have any cheaper yellow-plate cars and so I had to get the more expensive of the two. But a ￥3000 yen difference isn’t too bad for being able to fit a bunch of your friends and their snowboard gear.
Why get a rental car instead of buying?
If you are an ALT, the only reason to buy a car over renting one in Gunma in my opinion, is if you want to drive a sports car. If that’s not you, then save your money. If you think you’ll only be staying 1 or 2 years, it may end up being cheaper if you just rent a car. In addition to the upfront cost of buying the car and all the maintenance costs, you don’t need to pay car tax ($500 a year), insurance ($500 to 1000 a year), and shakken ($1000 for two years.)
The other plus of renting from Ebachan(something I wish he was there to help me with when I had my previous car) is that he will help you if you get in an accident. Unless you speak fluent Japanese, if you get in an accident it can be a hassle, trust me I know… Besides dealing with a potential hot head Japanese yelling crazy Japanese slang at you, or police investigating you as if you murdered someone, you also have to phone your insurance company and deal with all the keigo (polite form Japanese.) Not with Ebachan. You can let him handle all that mess.
Besides doing all the talking for you, he will also handle any repairs or maintenance to your car as well. He also owns a toe truck and if your car ever breaks down he is willing to come pick you up… I don’t have any clue what I would do in Japan by myself if that happened.
Overall the number one reason to choose Ebachan and a rental car over buying a car is…Convenience. You have to pay 2 months in advance (for me that ended up being about $360), but after that you have the freedom to cancel anytime. You also have support and can call him anytime with questions, help and advice and he may even take you hiking and show you around Gunma (unfortunately I had to miss out on his offer but he’s pretty experienced and goes a lot during the summer it seems.)
How to make a contract
To make a contract with Ebachan and get your own rental car you only need to bring four things to him!
- A photo copy of your international driving license
- Photo copy of your passport (only your picture is required.)
- Your bank book
- Your Hanko (name stamp/seal) – This is used to set up an automatic withdrawal for the payment
Personal car insurance
So although you avoid having to pay the Japanese car check-up and insurance (called “shakken” in Japanese), your probably going to want a personal insurance that covers accidents with people, property damage, car damage, etc. In my case I had help buying a cheap insurance for about $1000 a year that covered all my basic needs except for car damage, but I wish I knew about Ebachan sooner because he offers a great deal.
For people wanting insurance and the safety knowing your covered if an accident was to occur, Ebachan can introduce you to an agent of Tokyo Marine Nichido Fire Insurance, one of the biggest insurance companies in Japan and get you hooked up.
Don’t live in Gunma? No problem!
Although Ebachan mainly helps English teachers with rental cars in Gunma, he also offers his services to English teachers in nearby prefectures that are not too far away (2 hours drive out of Gunma would be tolerable.)
Sadly if you live in another prefecture you will have to find another man. However, the base cost for rental cars in Japan is about the same, your just going to lose the convenience of an English speaking Japanese helper most likely. However, you can ask your boss, supervisor, girlfriend / boyfriend and they can help you get a rental car set up and with a little more hustling you can end up with the same good deal.
Before I found Ebachan I was looking into renting a car at another rental shop and had my girlfriend help me with translations and it ended up being quite similar to Ebachan. However, Ebachan’s convenience, honesty, and English speaking ability made me decide to take my business up with him.
Shop: Ebachan’s Garage (“Tsurukiya Jidosha” in Japanese )
Location: 784-2 Kashiwakura, Maebashi-city, Gunma 〒371-0246